Check out the shiny new Tate Britain! Here’s your quick guide to the main things that have changed, from the restored rotunda to the restaurant
1. Its riverside entrance is back
They’ve been hidden for two years whilst architects Caruso St. John have been working their magic, but you can now enter the gallery by walking up its Millbank-facing steps. At the top you’ll be rewarded for your stair-walking efforts with a view of its grand porticoed entranceway, the way the gallery’s architect Sidney R.J Smith intended when it first opened in 1897.
2. There’s a sweeping new staircase
Spiralling up from the new café and restaurant on the lower level (see point 3!) to the main entrance, the centre-piece of the remodel is a slick marble staircase beneath the dramatic domed rotunda. With its art deco scallop pattern recalling Tate’s original marble mosaic floor, strolling down it feels like a glamorous sweep into the 1930s – and when you get there, you can explore the other eras of Tate’s past too, in a new room of archive photos. After a coffee, of course…
3. There’s a new café (and a reopened restaurant)
On the lower level, the gallery’s café has been completely overhauled and now opens out to an exterior terrace facing the river Thames. You can sip a cup of Tate-produced coffee (stirred with a specially-designed double-ended spoon by Nicole Wermers) under Alan Johnston’s pencil drawing that adorns the ceiling (look closely!), or visit the fully restored mural, The Expedition in Pursuit of Rare Meats 1926–7 in the renovated Whistler Restaurant.
4. There’s a shiny new space for Members
Nooks, crannies, domes and busts – you get it all in the new space for Members at Tate Britain. Overlooking the aforementioned spiral staircase, it occupies the circular balcony of the gallery’s domed rotunda atrium; the first time that this upper level has been open to the public since the 1920s. Slink away from the galleries below and slip into an asymmetric armchair by Edwin Lutyens or order a cocktail at the rotunda-wide mirrored bar inspired by Manet’sA Bar at the Folies-Bergères.
5. There’s lots to learn here
Of course, you probably knew that – but it’s worth noting that in this revamp, a lot of thought has gone into making Tate Britain’s many courses, workshops, talks and more accessible and inviting for visitors. There’s a nice new art studio - pooled with natural light thanks to the exposing of a tall, long-hidden window looking out over John Islip Street – kitted out for various art workshops (there’s a full guide to Tate’s Learning programme here), a separate space for seminars and a new digital studio. School visits should be improved, too; there’s now a dedicated ‘Schools Entrance’ next to the Millbank steps, and a separate schools’ lunch room.
6. Our permanent collection is having a moment
As well its changing exhibitions, Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1500 to present, and if you’ve never been to visit it – or haven’t been since it reopened in May – do yourself a favour and just come and do it. The above changes to Tate’s architecture and facilities complete a phase of rebooting that began with the rehanging of our permanent collection in the spring, and it’s gone down spectacularly well, if we say so ourselves (the Telegraph called it ‘gloriously, satisfyingly reactionary’). The major point about the new collection display is that it’s a totally chronological ‘walk through’ rather than being in any way themed, and in sandwiching together works that may have nothing in common but the date they were made, you get a proper, rich cross section of British art in each era.
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